French prosecutors are investigating whether Russia or one of its agents was involved in painting hundreds of Star of David graffiti on buildings across the country.
France is home to the largest Jewish population in Europe. The rapid and mysterious appearance of Star of David graffiti on several buildings has sparked concern in France, where anti-Semitic incidents have increased since Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7, and Jewish concerns about their safety have increased.
Paris prosecutors said they arrested a Moldova-born man and woman after they were caught painting a Star of David on a building in Paris in late October. Prosecutors revealed a Russian-language conversation on the couple’s phone in which they were asked to draw stars in exchange for money.
Reviving the visual memory that leads to the horrors
Since the German Nazis seized power in 1933, such provocations have been used to mark and discriminate against Jewish residences, shops or restaurants. By doing so, they indicate that the designated place is owned by a Jewish person, and in doing so they encourage people to avoid, boycott, damage, destroy, or abuse the owner of the designated places.
Searching the detainees’ mobile phones helped investigators link the couple to two other people, who were also arrested while drawing the Star of David in Paris. According to technical data, they were in contact with the same agent, the prosecutor. The office said. They found with them the plans used in the drawing, which came to them from the same source.
It has not yet been discovered who and how many people participated in the series of national actions. On the one hand, what we did was vandalism (violation of foreign property) and, in more serious cases, a hate crime.
A French official said the investigation led to the discovery of a bot network affiliated with the Russian mercenary group Wagner Force, which promoted images and drawings of spray-painted stars on social media. This way the drawings are almost identical in shape and size, and are not manually pressed.
As of early June 2023, the WagnerForce group was still fully funded by the Russian government, to the tune of $1 billion from the Defense Ministry and state budgets over the previous year.
Russia does not comment
A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Paris declined to comment on the incident, even though the first account posting photos, charts and color codes on X is based in Russia.
Activity was particularly intense on the largest political social media platform, with thousands reposting almost immediately after the images appeared. “It was a completely manufactured campaign,” the prosecutor’s office investigator said.
In France, the sudden resurgence of anti-Semitism is causing the highest level of political concern
According to Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, French authorities recorded 1,100 anti-Semitic acts last month and arrested 502 people. “The police have no shortage of tools to arrest those who attack French Jews and bring them to justice,” the minister said.
This is linked to the recent – and surprising – statement of far-right leader Marine Le Pen, calling for the protection of French Jews and the fight against anti-Semitic phenomena.